Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Danger to health: the decrepit GP surgery used by 30,000 people

A bucket hanging from the ceiling in the Waiting Room in the Antrim Health Centre to catch dripping water as the rain has caused a leak.

Thousands of patients are being treated in a GP surgery facility riddled with shocking health hazards, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Photographs of the interior of Antrim Health Centre, owned by the Northern Health & Social Care Trust, show the extent of disrepair staff and patients endure on a daily basis.

Broken windows are covered with plastic bags, buckets hang from the ceiling to catch water dripping through light fixtures and the sewers are emptied by dragging a hose across the carpet in the reception area.

Five GP practices operate out of Antrim Health Centre and serve up to 30,000 patients in the town.

Dr Allen McCullough, who works in the health centre, said: “It really is shocking and we’re utterly fed up.

“The only way to empty the sewers is through an access hole in the middle of the waiting room. The hose is hanging on the wall in the corridor, it’s stained black. It’s ridiculous.”

Dr McCullough said there are also major issues with the roof: ”We came in one day and there was water coming in through the lights. Parts of the roof have come in.

“The skylights are broken and when we tell the trust they come out and put plastic bags over the holes,” he added.

“The building is 40 years old and there has been next to no work done on it at all.”

There is only one room where patients can lie down in the treatment area, which is located inside a portable building where there is no wheelchair access.

Doctors have to book time in the treatment room and patients are frequently turned away and told to return the following day for important diagnostic tests due to capacity issues.

It comes as the Health Minister Edwin Poots presses ahead with a major overhaul of health and social services in Northern Ireland.

Minor surgical procedures and appointments with consultants in GP surgeries will become commonplace — but doctors’ leaders have warned the health service will collapse if existing facilities are not upgraded.

Dr McCullough said practices which use the Antrim Health Centre are Northern Trust tenants.

“Our practice alone pays them £2,500 a month in rent, so when you add up all the money they get from the five practices, it makes you wonder where the cash is going,” he added.

A spokeswoman from Northern Health & Social Care Trust said the health centre was surveyed last year and is in the process of being renovated.

“Phase one of this work — including re-roofing, new windows, doors, screens and external access — is under way and due to be completed this month,” she said.

“Redecoration, reflooring and rewiring of the building will be carried out next year,” she added.

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